Summary: We who are successful want instant gratification, but must know that God’s timing may be different, and that it is important to do something that enables others to succeed. In prayer we learn that we are accepted and so our efforts have meaning.
Success brings with it its own set of problems. If you get used to being successful, you soon expect it, and then if it eludes you, that can be very hard to take.
I know that I am speaking this morning to reasonably successful people, by and large. Most of you, when you face a challenge, are able to meet it. I see lots of people in front of me who were told, "You need to go to school and you need to do it well." And a good many of you did. I see folks with college degrees and graduate degrees and academic honors. I see folks with PhD’s and MD’s and EdD’s and Fiddle Dee Dee’s and all the rest. For the most part, you have succeeded.
I see people who have achieved something in their careers. I see some in supervisory and executive positions; I see some who can command respect and influence in their fields. You have succeeded professionally, many of you; and others are clearly on the way. We are justifiably proud of our young people; you show tremendous promise, and we all know that you will succeed. I see a group of people who have enjoyed a fair degree of success, at least in some realms.
But I know you well enough to know that underneath the facade of that success there is also a layer of disappointment. You don’t say much about it except in the privacy of the counseling session, but there are some failures cluttering up our hearts. There are some dreams that died a-borning, there are some expectations that never came to fruit.
For some it was a job offer that you thought was in the bag, but at the last minute it went to somebody else. Or it was a marriage that at the beginning you thought would last " ‘til death us do part," but a few years later it went sour. Or it was a child who rejected you or a friend who turned against you or a boss whose attitude you just couldn’t turn around …it was a failure. And here you are, successful you, and you thought you should have been able to make this work, but you just didn’t. That nags at you, doesn’t it?
Success brings with it its own set of problems. If you get used to being successful, you soon expect it, and if then it eludes you, that can be very hard to take. If you are angry about some such disappointment, at whom are you angry? Is it the person or the circumstance which frustrated you? Or are you angry at yourself? Or are you, in fact, angry at God?
King David had to face that kind of disappointment. David had succeeded in just about everything he had undertaken to do. His record as a man of valor was unequaled. His political savvy was widely recognized. His grand plan for creating a strong and united kingdom, centered on the capital city of Jerusalem … it was almost finished. He was close to complete success.
As we saw last week, David saw that one more element in his success would come if he could bring to his capital the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant, as I told you last Sunday, was an ancient box which was presumed to hold the tablets of the Law, and which people felt was, in some mysterious way, the embodiment of the presence of God Himself. And so, you see, if David could get the ark into the city, he just knew that complete success was right around the corner.
Well, last Sunday we spoke of David’s anger when, for a time, our God frustrated those plans. I hope you remember why. We said that God frustrated those plans because David’s strategy was manipulation; David’s plan was to use God for his own selfish purposes. And that God will never allow.
But we also saw last Sunday how David, in his heart, angry at God, moved from anger to fear and from fear to withdrawal. We saw how David just pulled back from God for a while and nursed his wounds, how he shut down and covered over his feelings. But at the end we learned that there was good news, because a gracious and a merciful God, who is always, always ready to reach out to us … that gracious God reached David and assured him of His love. We saw last week that David’s angry prayer when God would not be used for selfish purposes finally led David to know the assuring presence of God’s eternal mercy.
But now, today, there is another step. There is a new disappointment in David’s dealings with that ark. In the seventh chapter of Second Samuel we discover that when David does succeed in getting the ark moved to Jerusalem … and remember, here is a man who has succeeded at nearly everything he has tried … he decides that he wants to build a temple. He wants to build a permanent home for the Ark of the Covenant. But that was not to be.